How International Medical School Graduates Can Obtain Clinical Experience in the USA

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How International Medical School Graduates Can Obtain U.S. Clinical Experience

Every year a large number of physicians apply to pursue their residency in the United States of America.

Each physician who plans to pursue a residency in America has to learn about the intricacies of the American system in order to make a seamless transition from a foreign medical graduate to a successful practicing physician.

If you are planning to pursue your residency in America, there are various aspects an International Medical Graduate has to consider while applying for clinical experience and residency programs in the U.S.

Which Students Are Considered as International Medical Graduates?

If you graduate from a medical school outside America, irrespective of whether you are a U.S citizen, you will be considered as an International Medical Graduate (IMG) when applying for residency programs. This will require you to pass the USMLE and apply for clinical experience.

But first, in order to take the USMLE and pursue your residency in the U.S.A, being an IMG, you will first have to confirm that the medical school you graduate from is listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools. This is because medical schools listed in this directory meet the eligibility requirements set by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Thereby, you can register for the USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK and Step 2 CS as an IMG.

Once you have cleared your USMLE exams, you then have to work on building your portfolio in order to secure admissions in a U.S. residency program. This will require you to obtain U.S clinical experience. Your clinical experience will be a part of your CV and other documents you will be required to submit when applying for a residency program. The most common forms of clinical experience for IMGs are observerships, clinical rotations, clerkships or research positions. However, finding a clinical position in the US is not an easy feat, and being an IMG, your chances of securing a spot in a U.S residency program is much lower than that of a typical U.S. graduate. This generally happens due to the difference of medical laws and practicing patterns in various countries.

How Can IMGs Apply for U.S. Clinical Experience?

Being an IMG, finding the right type of clinical experience may be tough, but with the right methods, persistence, and ingenuity, there are several ways to find the right type of opportunity, such as:

Use Renowned Online Resources

The most trusted online resource when it comes to an all-encompassing database of medical schools, hospitals, and clinics is a website sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges, known as Extramural Electives Compendium. It is a free database that lets you search institutions based on their geographic location. It also offers useful information about medical school campuses, application procedures, elective time, and fee structures of such institutions.

Go to Direct Placement Clinics

Since IMGs face such difficulties finding clinical experience, some clinics even offer clinical experience programs that you can attend by paying to participate. Such clinics even provide letters of recommendation in case of well-performing students. However, as such direct placement clinics operate independently, be sure to ascertain whether they are certified by the American Medical Association, among other qualifications.

Why is U.S. Clinical Experience Important for IMGs?

Considering the highly competitive nature of this field, it has been observed that IMGs who participate in observer-ship programs to gain clinical experience are more likely to match. Many hospitals, research institutes, and private practices provide valuable opportunities to foreign graduates for internship, externship, volunteer-ship, and research assistance.

  • It boosts your resume for the residency match
  • It allows you to gain first-hand experience of the healthcare practices and environment in the U.S.A
  • It helps you increase your network in terms of peers, experienced doctors, and mentors
  • It helps in getting recommendations and references once your clinical experience is complete

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